Ousted ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie was reportedly pressured by ABC chairman Justin Milne to reverse Triple J’s decision to move the Hottest 100 countdown from Australia Day, with Milne allegedly saying then-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull would “go ballistic” over the change.
Citing ABC sources with knowledge of the situation, The Guardian reports that Milne, who was forced out of the national broadcaster this week despite having years left on her contract, frequently vouched for the ABC’s independence from governmental meddling.
That extended to issues like changing the date of the Hottest 100 countdown, a decision Triple J made after an extensive period of consultation with listeners and Indigenous groups who don’t necessarily see January 26 as a day of celebration for all Australians.
At the time, communications minister Mitch Fifield kicked up a stink about the change, telling the ABC board that the decision amounted to an overt and subjective political statement – the kind strictly prohibited by the ABC’s charter.
Milne is said to have passed on that concern to Guthrie, but she reportedly convinced the board to let Triple J carry on with its decision to hold the countdown on January 27.
Guthrie reportedly shielded other controversial ABC offerings from governmental ire, too.
She reportedly went in to bat for Tonightly after the show labelled a conservative candidate for the Melbourne seat of Batman a “cunt”. Despite Milne reportedly asking for host Tom Ballard to offer up a formal apology on air, Guthrie vouched for the ABC itself to determine if they crossed a line.
As it so happens, both the ABC and the Australian Communications and Media Authority ruled the sketch was a-okay.
The allegations of Guthrie’s defence of those changes come after the revelation that Milne reportedly wanted economics correspondent Emma Alberici binned over a flawed piece which specifically drew the ire of Turnbull.
In a statement released this morning, Milne did not address allegations that he was influenced by political pressure, instead saying “I do not propose to provide a running commentary on day to day issues which arise in pursuit of our duties.”
All of this is to say Aunty is having a rough go of it lately, and it seems there will be more drastic changes to come.